After a long morning of prepping for a cooking class scheduled the following day, my two assistants and I were wondering what to have for lunch. Looking in the fridge we spotted some limes and lemons, a large bunch of cilantro, a couple of ears of corn, and a bag of leftover salad greens. On the kitchen counter we noticed a ripe avocado and a bowl of multi-hued cherry tomatoes. It didn’t take us long to decide we could make a salad with our cache. What we weren’t expecting was for this impromptu creation to be so memorable!
We whisked lime and lemon juices with olive oil for a simple citrus vinaigrette, and for the salad we began by sautéing corn kernels scraped from the cobs. When lightly browned, we combined the golden morsels with halved cherry tomatoes and diced avocado. Since we had only a handful of salad greens, we used a generous amount of torn cilantro sprigs as a substitute. The substantial hit of cilantro’s assertive flavor turned out to be the secret to this salad’s delicious taste.
We piled the salad high on plates and dusted them with some coarsely grated hard-boiled egg. We also added a sprinkle of Mahon cheese, but the latter can be optional. The salad has become such a favorite that we’ve had it three more times for lunch on work days. Now each of us is planning to use it for summer suppers as a side to grilled mains such as chicken, lamb, or shrimp!
Freshly picked sweet corn, juicy tomatoes of varying lineages, bunches of leafy greens, slender pods of okra, fragrant herbs. Those are just some of the end-of-summer temptations at my local farmers’ market this time of the year. Often they serve as inspiration for the side dishes I prepare at home.
One recent creation, prepared with such purchases, was a delicious corn, tomato, and chard gratin. I sautéed corn kernels with leeks and julienned chard, then combined them with a savory custard of Half-and-Half, eggs, and grated white cheddar. This mixture was poured into a casserole pan, then topped with sliced tomatoes and another sprinkle of cheese. When baked the gratin was a lovely contrast of flavors with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes countering the hint of slightly bitter chard. Continue reading
Photo by Susie Cushner
Each year when late spring rolls around, I pack up my heavy winter clothes, and replace them with warm weather gear.The same type of seasonal exchange happens in my kitchen. The minute the thermometer starts to climb, I put away recipes for robust dishes and turn to lighter fare.
After a short heat wave, this week began with cooler days, and made me start thinking of heartier cooking. I knew right where to look for inspiration and pulled out my Sunday Casseroles, a book (published last fall) of warming, all-in-one dishes. Within minutes I spotted a perfect main course for early fall — Cornmeal-Coated Chicken with Ancho Chiles, Beans, and Corn. Continue reading
Earlier this month on a picture-perfect summer evening, my husband and I and a good friend ate outside on the terrace of Amherst’s Lord Jeffrey Inn. Our group of three looked at the interesting menu, and surprisingly all ordered the corn risotto as our main course. (If you knew what a carnivore my spouse, Ron, is, you’d be as stunned as I that he by-passed the handsome steak offering for this vegetable main course.). The waitress assured us that we wouldn’t be disappointed, and she was right.
The chef had made a delicious risotto by cooking arborio rice (the classic short, starchy grain used for this Northern Italian specialty) in simmering stock along with fresh corn kernels. As garnishes he had topped each serving with a spoonful of pickled piquillo peppers and some sautéed hen mushrooms. One bite and we were all smitten.
At home, I couldn’t get the dish out of my mind, and set out to create my own version. I sautéed chopped shallots in butter, along with corn and rice. Then for the next 20 minutes I slowly added ladlefuls of simmering broth to the pot, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed before ladling in more. Continue reading
About a year ago my book club decided to change its monthly meetings from Sunday afternoons to Thursday evenings. With the change came the suggestion that the usual appetizers and sweets that each host served be replaced with a soup and salad supper. I don’t know whether it was the new time or the menu, but ever since we switched to the current format, attendance has soared!
Goat Cheeses, Figs, and Rosemary Crackers
September is my month to host, and last night I welcomed everyone to my home. Since our book selection was Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz, I planned a menu that I thought would be worthy of this culinary icon.
For openers I arranged French goat cheeses on a wicker tray along with fresh figs. The soupe du jour was a hearty New England scallop and corn chowder garnished with fresh chives from my book Sunday Soup. A salad of heirloom tomatoes and arugula tossed in a sherry vinaigrette was a colorful accompaniment while individual crème brûlées topped with almond and pistachio brittle made a sweet ending.
After a month of cooking in a Paris apartment rental with no grill anywhere in sight, I couldn’t wait to pull out my Weber after returning home. The temperatures, hovering in the 90s in New England every day this week, have also been an incentive to move my kitchen outdoors.
Instead of the usual medley of steaks, chops, and burgers, though, I opted for fish, and settled on a delicious combination of salmon fillets and fresh corn on the cob, both brushed with a refreshing lime and cilantro-scented butter. This recipe is a breeze to make. You marinate the salmon for 30 minutes in a mixture of lime and oil seasoned with garlic and ginger, and halve and blanch the corn quickly in a pot of boiling water. Both are then brushed with the seasoned butter while they cook atop a hot fire. Continue reading
Here’s a great side dish to use some of that ubiquitous corn which as the lyrics go is “as high as an elephant’s eye” at this time of year. Diced chorizo, the slightly spicy Spanish sausage, fresh corn kernels, and chopped leeks are sautéed, then combined with eggs, half and half, and sour cream. Grated Gruyère and fresh chopped parsley provide more flavor. When baked, the gratin boasts a golden crust that covers a creamy custard mosaically studded with bits of sausage, corn, and leeks. This dish would make a fine garnish to barbecued chicken, grilled steaks, or sautéed pork chops.